After being suspended for the entire 2014 season, Alex Rodriguez has been one of the best hitters in baseball over the first two weeks of the 2015 season, and there are reasons to think it’s not a fluke.
Through 12 games, A-Rod is 12-for-38 (.316), has a whopping .447 OBP, has already hit four home runs, and he may just be getting warmed up.
On Friday night, A-Rod had his best game yet with three hits including two home runs, one of which was estimated to have travelled 477 feet.
It is that 477-foot home run, the longest in MLB this season, that is the first real sign that we are actually seeing the Alex Rodriguez of old and not an anomaly that tends to happen with small sample sizes.
Dan Rosenheck of The Economist feels that home run distance is significant, noting that of the 38,143 home runs to be measured since 2007, A-Rod’s home run was just the 25th that went at least 477 feet. More importantly, the other 22 players to do so are a who’s who of MLB’s top hitters, including Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, Prince Fielder, David Ortiz, Josh Hamilton, and Nelson Cruz.
In other words, a lot of players can hit four home runs in 12 games, but it takes a special hitter to hit one 477 feet.
Not bad for a player whom many felt was washed up. Things looked so bleak for A-Rod that some predicted the Yankees would release him before the 2015 season and pay him the $US61 million still owed on his contract just so he would go away.
What people didn’t count on was A-Rod being healthy and rediscovering his power, but that’s exactly what has happened thanks to a “miracle surgery” even his doctor said had little hope of working.
In a recent story for ESPN the Magazine, J.R. Moehringer recounts Rodriguez’ decision to have a radical surgery in 2013 designed to bring flexibility back to his hip.
A-Rod had lost mobility in his hip due to a number of factors. After examining Rodriguez, Dr. Bryan Kelly told A-Rod he had three choices: 1) continue playing with the hip as is, 2) retire, or 3) “try a miracle surgery with little chance of success.”
A-Rod picked door No. 3 without hesitation, according to Moehringer.
In short, the surgery involved shaving down the end of Rodriguez’ femur so that it fit better into his hip socket.
Shortly after the surgery, Dr. Kelly explained to the media that the surgery was needed because the end of A-Rod’s femur was not shaped properly, something Dr. Bryan believes happened during childhood development. Rodriguez was able to compensate for the problem early in his career. However, after time, the compensation made the problem worse and A-Rod developed a build up of calcium, an eventual tear of the labrum, and ultimately to a joint that had lost all of its rotation.
That is a terrible proposition for a power hitter since most power is generated by the lower-half of the body.
That A-Rod did not experience success immediately after the surgery during the 2013 season is not a surprise. Dr. Bryan explained at the time that A-Rod would need to “regain strength and teach his muscles to work with this new range of motion.”
Two years later, he appears to have regained the strength in his hip.
In hindsight, that Rodriguez was able to sit out the entire 2014 season may have actually been a blessing in disguise, as it gave him a full year to get the strength and muscle memory back.
The results have been nothing short of amazing. Not only are his stats good, Rodriguez appears to have his bat speed back.
Take a look at the other home run A-Rod hit on Friday at Tropicana Field. This is Bat Speed 101.
Rodriguez is still 39 years old and there is still a chance he won’t be able to stay healthy all season. But the “miracle” surgery fixed the biggest problem and right now Rodriguez looks like the A-Rod of old.
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